Bailey and Sweeney Sent to Boston
Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney will be shipping up to Boston as the Red Sox and Athletics made a much anticipated trade today in Boston’s quest to acquire a closer and Oakland’s latest rebuild move. The A’s in return acquire outfielder Josh Reddick, right-handed pitching prospect Raul Alcantara and first base prospect Miles Head. Reddick entered 2011 as Boston’s fourth ranked prospect by Baseball America and split his time between Pawtucket and Boston putting up a .280/.327/.457 line with the Red Sox to go along with 1.9 WAR aided by being a plus defender and baserunner. In his 278 at bats in the show he also managed seven home runs and he instantly slots into a starting outfield position with the A’s as his .335 wOBA and 105 wRC+ while not stellar are exemplary for the current outfield crew in Oakland.
Reddick has played near one season’s worth of baseball in Boston since he started travelling up and down I-95 for the Red Sox organization in 2009, and in 143 games has had 403 plate appearances posting 1.8 WAR, with an uninspiring .248/.290/.416 slash line and .304 wOBA with an 82 wRC+. In 2003 plate appearances of MiLB ball, Reddick has a .278/.332/.500 slash line with most of those numbers being boosted up at the lower levels. Ironically the complaints about Reddick in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook are similar to complaints many A’s fans have of Ryan Sweeney saying that,
“though he has good bat speed and repeatedly barrels balls, he too often gets himself out by putting pitches in play that he should let go by.”
Furthermore they note he has a stellar arm and call him an “assists machine” (something that one could easily label Sweeney as) while saying defensively he can man not only right but center field as well – no small feat at Fenway Park.
The other two prospects the A’s received are lesser sought after players. In ranking the Red Sox prospects ahead of the 2012 season, John Sickels of Minor League Ball puts Alcantara 23rd. He does say he has a high ceiling which is of course good for us A’s fans. The just recently turned 20-year-old split 2011 between the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and Lowell Spinners where in a combined 13 starts he posted a 2.20 ERA with 6.9 K/9 to only 1.7 BB/9, not allowing a home run in 65 1/3 innings (in his 125 2/3 total MiLB innings he only has allowed a lone home run for a career 0.07 HR/9). He does not take up a 40-man roster spot for the A’s, which is perhaps part of his benefit at this point.
Head meanwhile, a first base prospect and 21st on Sickels’ list, was a 26th round pick out of the 2009 amateur draft and will be of legal drinking age in May. He split 2011 between the Greenville Drive and Salem Red Sox posting a combined .299/.372/.515 slash line with 22 home runs in 557 plate appearances with a 9.0 BB% and 19.6 K%. Sickels’ review of Head was mixed saying,
“Ineffective in the New York-Penn League in ’10, but something clicked last year, hit for power and average in Low-A. Power carried forward to High-A but he’s got contact issues to work out, and right-handed hitting first baseman have an uphill battle. Could rank much higher next year.”
What the A’s gave up for this package of course was their closer the past three seasons in Bailey. Bailey, the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year, pitched 174 innings for Oakland sporting a nifty 2.07 ERA despite a somewhat higher 2.74 FIP. Overall he was worth 4.4 WAR in his three seasons earning 75 saves, but by a measure I like more shutdowns, he had 69 with 18 meltdowns. During his time with the A’s he posted 9.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and just 0.6 HR/9 featuring a very low .237 BABIP, and impressive 81.7% strand rate. His xFIP at 3.40 was significantly higher given his very low 5.4% HR/FB. Only nine relievers (out of 843) had more than his 4.4 WAR over the past three seasons, an elite backend of the bullpen Boston has just acquired.
The other player that the A’s gave up is Sweeney and in him the Red Sox get a frustrating player. Sweeney, a player who perhaps “looks like a ballplayer” more than any other player in baseball, looks like a slugger but has been baffling to scouts featuring an abysmal .096 ISO since breaking into the Majors in 2006 with the Chicago White Sox (he came to Oakland in the deal that sent Nick Swisher to the South Side and brought back him, Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos). In 1,681 plate appearances the 6’4/223# Cedar Rapids native has slugged a grand total of 14 home runs with his high water mark being the six round-trippers he collected in 2009, while the past two seasons have featured a lone home run each year. Sweeney has hit for average, his career mark being .283/.342/.378 but his severe power outage has led to him being a below average offensive player, with a .318 wOBA and 95 wRC+. His excellent fielding (particularly in 2009 when he was a +20.6 fielder) is largely responsible for him being a career 6.9 WAR player as in seasons with mere average fielding his WAR topped out in the 1-2 range, not his fluky 4.2 that he got in 2009 accounting for nearly 2/3 of his worth.
I got to say I am not crazy about this trade. I would’ve been more happy with a straight up sort of trade Bailey for a Ryan Lavarnway or even a lesser talent like a Will Middlebrooks. If the deal were just Bailey for Reddick, Alcantara and Head perhaps I’d be a little more thrilled with it though Alcantara and Head do seem to possess some intrigue. However the inclusion of Sweeney whom I am an unabashed fan of despite his underachievement to me was somewhat unnecessary. The A’s now still face a severe outfield shortage with just four outfielders on the 40-man roster – perhaps making it more likely that Brandon Allen does have a future with the club in left field. Alcantara seems very raw and very young and Head thus far has been inconsistent but clearly as a 26th-rounder did not have surefire pedigree to Theo Epstein and his crew. Sweeney’s inclusion just sort of kicks the can down the road on making another move to acquire an outfielder as there seem to be few options within the organization (lest still unclaimed Jai Miller return – not a move I’d ever advocate) and whether or not you believe that Sweeney has the stuff to be a starting right or center fielder in Major League Baseball there should be no argument that he’d serve as a capable and versatile fourth outfielder. The inclusion of Sweeney especially seems as if it should account for more talent coming back given his ability to be a fine fourth outfielder (the position I assume he would take in Boston) yet instead we get one Major League talent in Josh Reddick who thus far at least merely looks like a Ryan Sweeney of 2008/2009 with a little more pop, who walks a whole lot less (Reddick’s career BB% is 5.5% while Sweeney is at 8.3%). Overall one can argue that Sweeney is capable of being a 1.0-2.0 WAR player with Reddick maybe being a 1.5-2.5 WAR player with 3.5 upside. If this trade were Sweeney for Reddick it seems the A’s would need to sweeten the pot a bit. Sweetening it with one of the baseball’s best relief pitchers who is very affordable seems like it is over-sweetened and the inclusion of two very far from ready MiLB prospects doesn’t seem to make up the difference. This trade will not be well understood for a long time, but as of right now it seems that Billy Beane missed the most opportune moment to trade Bailey. While Kenny Williams of all people was able to deal Sergio Santos with one year of closing experience under his belt and far poorer numbers for more highly thought of talent like Nestor Molina, we trade someone who is clearly Santos’ superior and don’t really get anything in return that looks quite as good as Molina.